Moslers Legacy Not Lost

A couple weeks ago, we discussed the loss of Murwin Mosler’s work in the form of prints and negatives due to Mosler’s daughter’s home being hit by the May 22nd tornado.  At the time, it was thought that every aspect of Mosler’s legacy had been lost, scattered across the city and Southwest Missouri.  It was recently reported that this was not so.  In an oddly termed “rescue” it was discovered that over 25,000 negatives had not been lost, but instead were actually buried in the rubble of the home.   At present, the negatives  are in the possession of the Joplin Museum Complex for the purpose of being “saved” by the permission of Mosler’s daughter.

What the “saved” process entails is the sorting and categorizing of the negatives, which involves documenting the names of the individual in the photographs that date from 1939 to 1986.  This will be done by the Museum Complex’s volunteers, who museum director  Brad Belk notes in the article, “have never done anything like this…”  and will have to create a database to allow for easy search and distribution.  In the end, Joplin residents who lost photographs might be able to find replacement photographs within this collection.  Belk stated he hoped that the process would take only three months.  We expect this is an optimistic timeline given the lack of experience of the JMC staff, despite having an extensive collection of historic photographs of Joplin.  What the JMC should do is reach out to the State Archives staff that Secretary of State Robin Carnahan has sent to Joplin.   The State Archives have extensive experience in the sorting,  cataloging, restoration and preservation of photographs, particularly those that have suffered damage.

We’re happy to know that the negatives were not lost and an effort will be made to catalog and document this important part of Joplin’s history.  We do hope that when the Mosler collection has been fully cataloged that it’s contents will be made available to the public at large.

JMC Board Discusses Union Depot Plan, April 12, 2011

Tonight the combined boards that oversee the Joplin Museum Complex will meet to discuss and vote on the plan presented by City Manager, Mark Rohr, on moving the JMC to a restored Union Depot building.  While we believe the vote will be only to push for further investigation and feasibility, it’s an important step in the future of the JMC and for Joplin.

It is at this point that the JMC can reject the plan, and if the City Council refuses to throw its considerable heft into the question, thus will end the chance to bring history to history.  The SPARK program, outlined by Mr. Rohr in his recent guest column in the Joplin Globe is a dynamic and bold vision for the future of the city.  The transfer of the JMC to the Union  Depot is likely not a make or break element of SPARK, it should and will move on without the JMC if the Board chooses to vote against the plan.  However, to do so will result in the JMC failing to keep abreast with the future of the city and her people.  The museum, relegated to Schifferdecker Park, will remain out of sight and out of mind of most Joplin citizens.

This is a chance for the members of the Board to recognize the same spirit of Joplin that they charge themselves with protecting, the boldness of miners and merchants, and a people who saw only a bright future for the city at the edge of the great Southwest.  We urge the Board members to vote in favor the of the plan or be left behind as the rest of Joplin moves forward into the future.

 

Joplin Museum Complex Boards to Sit On Question of Union Depot

We mentioned earlier today that City Manager, Mark Rohr, was to give a presentation to the boards that oversee the Joplin Museum Complex on moving from Schifferdecker Park to a restored Union Depot building. Thanks to Morgan Schutters, of KODE tv, we now know how the meeting unfolded.

In the presentation, Mr. Rohr estimated the budget for the restoration of the building and associated costs would be around 7.7 million dollars. Of that 7.7 million dollars, no new taxes would be required (unlike the Joplin Museum Complex’s failed attempt to take over Memorial Hall) and it would be funded entirely by existing sources. Much of this would be done using currently available tax credits. Even more importantly, after the planned restoration of the Depot, the building would qualify as a Smithsonian approved museum. We belief, but have not yet confirmed, that this is related to the Smithsonian Affiliation program – in which museum affiliates are eligible to host Smithsonian exhibits and collections. To do that, the Smithsonian requires the museum to be:

“…a viable institution, capable of caring for, protecting, and exhibiting collections in a manner consistent with the standards set by the American Association of Museums, and meeting specific requirements for long-term care and maintenance of Smithsonian collections, as set forth in the Smithsonian’s Collections Management Policy.”

(This status, one would presume, should ease the fears raised by Museum Director Brad Belk last year on the ability to safeguard the JMC’s collections (currently collecting dust and cat hair in the current location).)

Quoted in the report, board member Angie Besendorfer, implied that “a lot of questions” still need to be answered before the boards could make a decision. Likewise, the board told Mr. Rohr that it would need more time to think about the issue.

Should the boards decide to agree to the plan to move the museum into a renovated Depot building, we will be wonderfully and happily surprised. However, we fear that the board members made their minds up quite some time ago. If they haven’t, we urge all those who want to continue to see Joplin move forward on the rise, to once again believe that better days are still ahead, to speak up and out. If you know a board member, tell them you support the move to the Depot. It is an urgent issue which has been delayed for too long, and as Mr. Rohr noted in the meeting, time is running out on the means to make it happen without extra cost to the city and her residents.

Joplin Globe article on Joplin High School

For those who might have missed it, the Saturday edition of the Joplin Globe carried a brief history behind the construction of the Joplin High School building built at Eighth and Wall.   The article covers the story from the school building’s initial planning, its architect, as well student efforts to raise support for the idea, and its eventual construction.  At the end of the article, one can find a short note on the influence of the First World War and small pox.

Source: The Joplin Globe

Globe Overview of the Union Depot

Joplin Union Depot

East Facade of Joplin Union Depot

This last weekend, the Joplin Globe offered up a summary of the present situation with the Union Depot.  In addition, the Globe put together a short timeline of events for the Depot from its opening over 99 years ago.

The summary covers in brief the past attempts at restoring the Union Depot, including an offer in 1973 by the Kansas City Southern to deed the Depot to the city.  That proposal was nixed by the then head of the Joplin Museum Complex, Everett Richie.  The excuse given then was the danger that the active train tracks posed to the museum and its collection should it be moved to the location.

The Globe managed to speak briefly with Nancy Allman, who was the lead in the effort to restore the Union Depot in the 1980′s.  Allman did confirm that she still had in her possession some items from the Union Depot.  This is good news for the restoration of the Union Depot.  Even if Ms. Allman may not want to donate or sell the items, perhaps she would at least allow the restorers to photograph and measure the items for reproduction purposes.

Joplin Union Depot

West Facade of Joplin Union Depot

The article also brings us via Allen Shirley the 3 Key Issues for the JMC about a move to the Union Depot.  Let’s look at them one by one:

1) The Union Depot’s structural integrity.

Reports indicate that the work done in the prior restoration attempt went along way toward reinforcing and repairing structural integrity issues.  In the walk through by the Joplin Globe with David Glenn, who was part of the restoration team from the 1980′s, Glenn comments on the strength of the building.

2) There’s less than 400 sq foot than the current museum.

As we’ve pointed out in previous coverage of the Union Depot question, there are two measurements being offered of the Union Depot’s space; one from the JMC and company, and one from Mark Rohr.  It really boils down to the basement.  One side counts it and the other side doesn’t.  The basement also brings about another issue, as we’ll address below.  There’s no reason more space cannot be constructed to supplement the Union Depot and done so in a simple, elegant and complimentary manner to the Union Depot.  Here’s an off the cuff idea: enclose the concourse extending from the depot with glass, creating a beautiful glass hallway, and have the end of the concourse connect to a secondary building.  There’s plenty of space available for such an addition.  None the less, an addition may not even be necessary.

3) Environmental Control

Appropriately, the JMC Board is concerned about the presence of environmental control in the Union Depot.  It seems that it would be a matter a fact element of any renovation of the Depot, particularly a restoration performed with a archival purpose in mind.  In many ways, as photographs will often attest, the Depot is a blank canvas and now is the time where such improvements can be made and without the cost of tearing out existing material to replace it.  (That former material has already been torn out!)   Again the basement and the standing water.  Here’s a simple answer: pump any water out, replace any water damage and effectively seal the basement walls.  We’re not contractors here at Historic Joplin, but this solution does not seem to be one of great complication.

Mr. Shirley claims that the JMC board has not taken a position about the proposed move.  We would disagree.  No member of the board, or JMC Director Brad Belk, have not once said anything positive about the idea.  In the summary, Mr. Shirley does note they support the preservation of the Depot, as we would hope of those who are charged with protecting the city’s history.  However, supporting the saving of the Depot does by no means equate to supporting the idea of moving the museum.  Fearfully, three members of the City Council appear ready to allow the Board to do as it wishes, which means doing absolutely nothing.  The Board wanted Memorial Hall for a new home, turned down the offer by the Gryphon Building, and will have to be dragged into the Union Depot.

This is not the time for inaction.  Joplin has embarked on a push of re-establishing itself as a city of beautiful buildings and one engaged not only with its past, but with an active present focused on its increasingly vibrant downtown.  The relocation of the museum to the Union Depot would not only give more people a reason to visit downtown, but its better accessibility than the remote location by Schifferdecker Park would mean more would take the time to learn about the city’s glorious past.

The leadership of the city has proven itself innovative and bold by the successful and ongoing restoration downtown, we hope that the leadership does not back down at this important juncture.  The City holds the purse strings of the JMC and if the Board of the JMC is not willing to play a part in the revitalization and the new beginning of Joplin in the 21st century, the City should tighten those strings.  The Board of the JMC needs to accept that they will not always get what they want and assume a much more forward thinking position, lest they end up as dust covered exhibits they profess to preserve.

HJ Joplin Union Depot

Be Bold, Joplin!

Joplin’s Managers of Baseball

Recently, Joplin Museum Director Brad Belk chose to write briefly about Harry Francis Craft for the Joplin Globe. Craft was not the first nor last baseball manager to pass through Joplin either on the way to the Major Leagues or on their way after. Perhaps one of the earliest baseball managers was “Honest John” McCloskey.

McCloskey rolled into Joplin in 1887. 1887 was the year that the News Herald declared that Joplin finally decided to become serious about baseball. This resolve was put into effort by the construction of a baseball field at the end of a mule drawn trolley line on west 9th Street. The city advertised for players, apparently finding none at home who met their own criteria, and ended up hiring a number of players from the “Kerry Patch” area of St. Louis. At the same time, the paper noted, a boom in some eastern Kansas towns had led John McCloskey to managing in Arkansas City.

Successfully defeating the Kansas towns, McCloskey brought his team to Joplin and thrashed the hometown heroes. Henry Sapp, who had made money mining lead and later zinc, and had been a driving force behind the St. Louis hiring, quickly fired the team and promptly bought out McCloskey and his Arkansas City team. Victory followed for Joplin until summer came to an end and fall grew closer to winter. Eager to keep playing, McCloskey raised enough support among Joplin businessmen to fund a tour of Texas. Purportedly, the Joplin players may have been among the first to assume the title of “Joplin Miners” with the team name stitched on the front of their uniforms. In the process, the Joplin team defeated two national league teams traveling through the state, one from New York and the other from Cincinnati, and may have also contributed to the establishment of a Texas baseball league.

In the late 1890’s, McCloskey returned several times to Joplin to field a team. One team, the Giants, competed against the Bloomer Girls in 1898. A few years later, McCloskey found himself the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals from 1906 to 1908. By his later years, the manager found himself without the success that had brought him a job in Joplin. Friends helped out McCloskey by contributing money to purchase the on and off again Joplin manager a home in Louisville, Kentucky.

Perhaps Joplin’s most successful baseball manager was Charles “Gabby” Street. Street was a son of Alabama and had a baseball career cut short by what Joplin newspaper man, Robert Hutchison called, “overindulgence in the bottled stuff.” Hutchison counted Street a friend and met with him and others every weekday morning during the off season to share their passion for the sport. One of the other regulars was Joe Becker, namesake of Joplin’s Joe Becker Stadium. Hutchison noted that Street earned the most fame as a player for catching a ball “thrown” from the top of the Washington Monument and as the catcher for Walter Johnson, a fellow teammate on the Washington Senators.

Street managed the Joplin Miners from 1922 to 1923, the former season being the one where the Miners won the Western Association championship. The success in Joplin lead him away from the city, but he later returned to make a home and to invest in real estate. He kept this home, according to Hutchison, before his major league appointment as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. At the Cards, Street managed from 1929 to 1933, taking the team to the World Series twice. Hutchison aptly described the two trips, “His Redbirds lost the 1930 World Series to Sly Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics, four games to two. They met again the next year and the famed Gas House Gang ripped up the basepaths for a victory in seven hard fought contests.”

The World Series pennant was the highlight of Street’s career. Soon after he was let go from the Cardinals and only returned to the show one last time to manage a losing St. Louis Browns. As Hutchison then recalls, “Gabby came home to stay.” Later on, Street did return to St. Louis, but to provide color commentary for the Cardinals instead of coaching. At this time, a future radio commentator worked with him, Harry Caray. When Street passed away, he was buried in Mount Hope cemetery along with many of the other notable names in Joplin’s past. West 26th Street is named after the baseball coach, who likely will be remembered as the most successful of the baseball managers to find their way to Joplin.

Sources: Joplin News Herald, Robert L. Hutchison’s “Deadlines, Doxies & Demagogues,” and Baseball-reference.com.

Tepidness Reigns Supreme at Museum Board Meeting

Joplin newspaper cartoon

Don't Let the Obstructionist Win!

This last week’s meeting of the Joplin Museum board was a showcase in tepid response to bold planning for the future.  The topic of the meeting, covered by the local news station KODE, was the possible relocation of the museum to the Union Depot.  The news segment featured interviews with board member Allen Shirley and City Councilman Benjamin Rosenberg.

Shirley continued what is now becoming a two month long hem haw of expressing a cautious disapproval for the idea of moving to the Union Depot.  The main point expressed by Shirley in his interview was the lack of exhibit space, a point raised by Museum Director Brad Belk previously.  The matter of sufficient space appears to be growing into the banner to be waved by the Joplin Museum Board, we expect to hear it raised again and again as their argument against the move.

From even before City Manager Mark Rohr’s presentation, the Joplin Museum Board has not wanted to move to the Union Depot, and since the presentation, have protested as much as possible without appearing reactionary.  It is clear that if the Joplin Museum Complex is to be moved to the Union Depot, the board will have to be dragged kicking and screaming.  The angry child who did not get its prized relocation and taxes to take over Memorial Hall now just want to take their ball and go home, rather than settle for something less than they desired.

Disconcertingly, the meeting was attended by three city council members, which as the news report explained were there in support of the museum board.  Of the three, only Benjamin Rosenberg opted to speak with a reporter and offered a fascinating rebuttal against Mark Rohr’s well grounded plans for Joplin’s growth over the next five years.  Rosenberg, when asked about the plan declared, “I had no part in the city manager’s vision.  I had no pre-warning. I had no consultation with the city manager.”  By all appearances, it seems Mr. Rosenberg does not like or agree with Rohr’s plan that was presented earlier this summer.

Rosenberger also told the reporter that he strongly believed the fate of the museum should be left in the hands of the museum board and not forced by the hand of the city.  This would be a rational position to take were the museum lead by forward thinking, competent and experienced individuals, but that is not the case.  The only imaginative thinking the museum has displayed in recent years has been to spring an idea that was overwhelmingly disapproved of by 75% of the city’s voting residents.  Meanwhile, the popularly supported plan of moving the museum to the Union Depot languishes because neither the museum board nor apparently some of the city council are willing to take bold steps for Joplin’s future.

Is Joplin anymore the city of Thomas Connor, Charles Schifferdecker, or Thomas Cunningham?

We say nay!

Where is the vision?  Why the desire for mediocrity?  Where is the leadership that has helped to restore downtown?  Joplin became the city that is resplendent with beautiful buildings and good people because its leaders in the past were unwilling to quietly abide.  It would do the museum board well to remember this, a lesson they should learn if they are at all familiar with the history they have sworn to safe keep.

HJ Union Depot image

It Is Time To Be Bold!

Museum Expert Visits Joplin

As reported in the Joplin Globe today, the Joplin Museum Complex in Schifferdecker Park was visited yesterday by Mary Frances Turner, of Synergy Design Group (a museum design firm) and a museum expert.  Ms. Turner was invited by Chad Greer, the architect hired by City Manager, Mark Rohr, to oversee the expected costs of restoring the Depot.  The purpose of her visit was to evaluate the collection of the museum and to offer her analysis on whether the Union Depot would be a suitable home for the museum.

Of note is the fact that the museum houses an extensive photographic collection of early Joplin, not to mention an amazing mineral collection.  The Globe quoted Ms. Turner as responding, “This is it,” Turner said of the photographs and other historical documents, some of them portraying life in the lead and zinc mines that underpin the founding of Joplin and much of the region. “This is a gold mine” for research, she said.”

Per the condition of the Depot, the matter of the standing water in the basement was raised as an issue toward the climate controlled nature that will be demanded of the new home for the museum. There was also the question of parking.

For those of us closely following the situation, we will have to wait another 4 to 6 weeks for Ms. Turner’s report.

Needless to say, here’s our rather passionate response!

The article also states,

“[Museum Director Brad] Belk has used the materials in some local history books he has written, but the public is largely unaware of the photographs because there is no space in the current setup for them to be accessed or viewed by visitors.

Belk and Shirley listed the mineral collection and mining machines, the local history exhibits and archives, an 8,000-item presidential collection, a collection of World War II-era uniforms, fashions and textiles, Civil War items, and dolls as among the collections that need display space. Some have never been viewed by the public.”

First, as we have repeatedly discussed in the past, Brad Belk has refused access to the photograph collection to visitors (including us). Will this really change if the museum relocates to a new building? If there is a new facility, will Belk finally allow the public to view and obtain copies of photographs, use them in books, or other publications?

To be honest, we’re skeptical. It appears as if he treats the collection as his own personal fiefdom. If Belk was smart, he would model the photograph collection like the one at the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale, Arkansas, one of the finest small museums in nation.

If you want to see what the Joplin Museum Complex should be like, then visit the Shiloh Museum. It has the largest photograph collection in the state of Arkansas that is lovingly and professionally cared for by trained, expert staff.  The museum features an art collection (artwork is frequently rotated on a regular basis), permanent exhibits about life in the Ozarks, rotating exhibits on topics of local, regional, and national interest, a superb museum collection, and outdoor exhibits. Its staff have years of museum and public history experience with actual degrees and training in the museum field. Its director is very active (committee and board member) in the American Association of Museums (AAM) the lead organization in the field. Supported by the city of Springdale, Arkansas, and private donors, it operates on a small budget every year, less than $500,000.

Can Brad Belk run a museum like that?  It is yet to be seen.

Here’s our view: Get a new building, get a new director, and dump the cookie cutter/doll collection. Museums cannot and should not collect every item that comes in the door. Cut the excess and focus on the true gems of the collection.

However, even if the Joplin Museum Complex does not move into the Union Depot, its collections of Joplin’s history must be made available to the public.  Such historic treasures should not be relegated to the private fiefdom of the museum to be made available at the whims of the museum’s leadership.  We at Historic Joplin have been to a number of research centers and a research area may only consist of a table and a couple chairs.   It is not a difficult matter to take up.  In terms of organizing the collection, it is amazing what earnest volunteers are willing to do and organize if only given the proper direction.

Second, this has not been the first time the issue of water has been raised concerning the Union Depot as a home to the museum.  We can only hope that it does not represent a barrier to the decision to move the museum.  While we are not experts in restoration or plumbing, it would seem that waterproofing a basement is not high on the list of complex restoration work.  The cost of this fix should be considered with the benefit to restoring and saving an architectural masterpiece, as well providing the collections of the Joplin Museum Complex a worthy and admirable home. We Missourians are known for our tenacity, our resourcefulness, and our resiliency.

Finally, this is an important moment for Joplin and its history.  The chance exists to save a building that has been neglected for too long and to provide the museum a home with roots nearly as deep as the city itself.  The Union Depot is more accessible to those lured to the rehabilitated downtown area than the Joplin Museum Complex’s present home and it is a beautiful building that need not be viewed from Main Street to be admired for its style and design.

We hope that Mary Frances Turner can overlook the weak complaints about water at the Union Depot and will recommend that it should serve as the new home of the Joplin Museum Complex. Make a bold leap of faith and save the Union Depot and provide the citizens of Joplin with a credible museum.

If you want to voice your support for the Union Depot, why not contact the Mayor Mike Woolston, City Manager Mark Rohr, and Museum Director Brad Belk? Tell them what you think. Let your voices be heard.

Joplin Union Depot

Save the Union Depot!

It’s a Matter of Space

Questions

As you may have noticed, we’ve been following the latest developments regarding the proposed Joplin Museum move to the Union Depot.

After reading some of the comments on the Joplin Globe’s website and in its “Letters to Editor” section over the last few months, we have questions.

As one Globe reader, posting under the name Av-I-tar, asked,  Why are visitors not allowed to take photography in the Joplin Museum Complex?

We here at Historic Joplin hate to brag, but we’ve been in a few of the world’s finest museums. We’ve also visited some pretty crappy ones. The kind filled with arrowheads, poorly preserved stuffed animals moldering away, and a bunch of junk that the “curator” decided to take lest he or she offend the donor. Oh, wait. Sound familiar?

So what’s the big deal? Afraid that professional thieves might take photographs to aid in robbing the museum of it’s “rare” mineral collection? Fearful that someone will attempt to profit from photographs of the exhibits? If you are going to enforce a nonsensical policy, you should at least provide a rational explanation to visitors.

Another issue that keeps popping up and one that we are familiar with: Brad Belk will not allow the public to access, view, or study the museum’s photo collection. We presume his salary is paid by the city. Why is a city employee allowed to deny the public, Joplin taxpayers in particular, access to the photograph collection? The answer given? “No space.”

The museum exists for the benefit of the public. The public should be accommodated, but it seems that Belk has established his own personal fiefdom and serves as the gatekeeper who perpetually denies the public an opportunity to review the city’s photographic history. It will probably remain this way until he retires which will probably be decades in the future because he is firmly entrenched.

Perhaps if we wrote a big enough check we could get access. Instead we hope the folks who sign his paycheck read our comments and those expressed on the Joplin Globe’s website and ask him to reconsider his obstructionist  behavior. We’re curious to see if, once he gets all the museum space he desires, he will continue this absurd policy.

At least we have enough time to save our nickels and dimes to write that big check.

Museum Boards Meet to Discuss Depot Plans – HJ’s Response

Today’s Joplin Globe reported that the Joplin Museum and Historical Society boards met to discuss the Gryphon Building and Union Depot as potential locations for the Joplin Museum Complex. Both boards voted against a proposal to purchase the newly renovated Gryphon Building. The cost of the Gryphon Building was far too high for the museum.

Joplin Museum Complex Director Brad Belk then discussed the Union Depot. After noting, “It is better laid out than the current museum location” he claimed the size of the depot is smaller than the current museum facility and that it has water issues in the basement.

Gee.

The depot is almost one hundred years old and has been sitting empty since the 1970s. With no windows, no doors, and no maintenance, it’s not surprising that it has a few issues. At least one architect and one contractor have expressed their opinion that the structure is sound and built to last.

It seems Belk and the museum/society boards are dragging their feet when there is a golden opportunity before them. They could be heroes! Imagine – revitalizing the Union Depot, a beautiful structure that stands on the site of the lead strike that led to Joplin’s very existence – and helping anchor and rehabilitate north downtown Joplin. Instead, they are letting a few puddles of water and space concerns constrain them.

Look into the water issue. Talk to architects about the cost and design of an addition to the current structure that would bring needed additional space that would, at the same time,  preserve the architectural integrity of the depot. The Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City managed to do this.

Now, we realize that the museum complex is poor as a church mouse and that its board members are unable and/or unwilling to cough up a significant amount of funds needed to bring in a renown architect and build a modern addition like the Nelson-Atkins. That isn’t necessary. What is necessary is that the boards and Belk seize this opportunity. A local architect can be found who can create a tasteful and aesthetically pleasing addition.

They have no concept of vision. But, then again, it seems that the museum and society boards are populated by good old boys who know very little about museums and historic preservation.

Why not look into Mark Rohr’s proposals of grants and other funding methods to make the dream come true? It certainly would be better to try and fail in this case rather than just sit and do nothing but complain and grumble.

Let’s face it.

In April the voters declined to support the museum’s pathetic takeover of Memorial Hall. Memorial Hall is over. Move on. Move on to what people are actually voicing support for. Museum attendance across the nation has been declining for years. Either you march into the future or you wait to be swept up into the dustbin of history and irrelevance.

What will it be?

In memory of the feisty Joplin Globe and News-Herald editors of yesteryear who never failed to express their opinion whether popular or not.

Historic Joplin - Support the Union  Depot Proposal

Don't Let The Museum Board Balk at A New Home!